Thursday, October 26, 2023

Flashback: How conservatives used junk science to denigrate LGBTQ people (dedicated to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson)

When Speaker of the House Mike Johnson was employed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, this is the way he tried to cast the lives of LGBTQ people (particularly gay men).

The selection of Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House provides a wonderful opportunity to remind folks about the nature of anti-LGBTQ propaganda. Particularly how it was done in the past. Before getting elected to Congress, Johnson was a spokesman for the Alliance Defending Freedom. During that time, he made many statements and published many pieces attacking the LGBTQ community.

In editorials that ran in his local Shreveport, Louisiana, paper, The Times, Johnson called homosexuality a “inherently unnatural” and “dangerous lifestyle” that would lead to legalized pedophilia and possibly even destroy “the entire democratic system.” And, in another editorial, he wrote, “Your race, creed, and sex are what you are, while homosexuality and cross-dressing are things you do,” he wrote. “This is a free country, but we don’t give special protections for every person’s bizarre choices.”  

The "homosexuality is a dangerous lifestyle" narrative was once used extensively by anti-LGBTQ groups, the religious right, and conservatives to denigrate us and undermine our equality. And it was very calculating. 

Knowing full well that they could not oppose our rights on a purely religious basis, groups like ADF and their spokespeople like Johnson crafted a framework of lies by picking apart various aspects of our lives and falsely recasting them as cautionary tales.  And they molded it together with a heavy dose of junk science, cherry-picked science, and out-and-out lies to claim that homosexuality was dangerous and should not be "encouraged" for any reason.

The creation of this blog in 2006 was to specifically challenge this false narrative and I'm proud to say it has been very successful. Because of  Johnson's selection as Speaker of the House, I am reposting a piece I wrote over 10 years ago which broke down many of these lies and demonstrated just how skillfully they were being used:

Seeing that this post is over 10 years old, some of the links may no longer be in existence. However I stand by everything I wrote:

 Chinese general Sun Tzu in The Art of War once said:

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles . . .

With that thought in mind, I have tried to educate myself and others on the manipulations of the religious right. You see it's not enough to call them "homophobes" or "haters" anymore than it is not enough for a prosecutor in a trial to point at a defendant and call him guilty.

There must be some proof of the charges.

I have a theory that in this so-called cultural battle, our fight isn't totally with those who have a personal religious belief that homosexuality is a sin. It's not an idea that I prescribe to but I am of the opinion that people with differing beliefs can co-exist up to a point.

Granted there are some people who are rabidly anti-gay, but this piece isn't about them.

My theory and all of my focus have been on the religious right organizations who manipulate people's religious beliefs and personal fears to make the lgbt community the boogeymen or the "big nasty other" in American society.

I've posted in the past about their distortion techniques. I've posted about discredited researcher Paul Cameron and his relation to the religious right as to how these groups continue to use his bad data.

Today, I want to show how these groups have their own ways of distorting credible research.

I have read countless religious right papers and studies and have discovered that in many if not all of them, many of the same studies are being distorted.

It’s as if the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association and other affiliate groups have some type of file cabinet with an assortment of legitimate studies that they can pull out and distort. I want to show you just a few. Some you have already seen these before but a refresher course never hurts anyone:

Distortion - Lgbt homes are not ideal homes to raise children because gay supportive researcher Judith Stacey said so in her study:

“A study conducted by Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz, sociologists at the University of Southern California, revealed that children raised by homosexual couples ‘seem to grow up to be more open to homoerotic relationships.’ The study showed that 12 percent of girls raised in lesbian homes became active lesbians themselves—increasing the likelihood of lesbianism by more than 400 percent.” - Fast Facts, Gay Adoption, Coral Ridge Ministries

Researcher Judith Stacey thinks that children do well in homosexual homes. She says her study found that girls brought up by lesbians show greater interest in masculine activities and dress and seek non-traditional female jobs. Boys in lesbian homes are more feminine and more nurturing. Children in these homes also become sexually active with same-sex partners. - Children In Homosexual Homes Become Sexually Confused, Traditional Values Coalition

Truth - Judith Stacey had gone on record numerous times decrying how her research in lgbt homes have been distorted. According to

. . . Stacey and Biblarz noted preliminary evidence of some “modest and interesting” differences between children raised by heterosexual parents and children raised by lesbian and gay parents, but they affirmed that “parental sexual orientation has no measurable effect on the quality of parent-child relationships or on children’s mental health or adjustment.”

In addition, via this link, she calls Focus on the Family to the carpet for distorting her work.

Distortion - Lesbian and gay relationships are generally violent Part 1:

A study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined conflict and violence in lesbian relationships. The researchers found that 90 percent of the lesbians surveyed had been recipients of one or more acts of verbal aggression from their intimate partners during the year prior to this study, with 31 percent reporting one or more incidents of physical abuse.” - Comparing the Lifestyles of Homosexual Couples to Married Couples, Family Research Council

There is a higher rate of violence in lesbian and homosexual relationships than in married, heterosexual relationships. A study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined conflict and violence in lesbian relationships. The researchers found that 90% of the lesbians surveyed had been recipients of one or more acts of verbal aggression from their intimate partners during the year prior to this study, with 31% reporting one or more incidents of physical abuse. - Same-Sex Parenting is Harmful to Children Says REAL Women of Canada, Lifesite News

Truth - According to the Journal of Interpersonal Violence’s own web page:

The Journal of Interpersonal Violence offers the most up-to-date information on domestic violence, rape, child sexual abuse and other violent crimes . . . Focusing on both victims and perpetrators, the journal examines theoretical links between all types of interpersonal violence, exploring the similarities and differences between these types of crimes.

In other words, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence tracks domestic violence, as well as other violent crimes.

Those surveyed in journal articles are the victims of violence, verbal or otherwise, because this is what the journal is designed to track.

However, what religious right groups are doing here is the equivalent of taking a study of domestic violence in the African-American community published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and using it to allege that black relationships are indicative of violent behavior.

Distortion - Lesbian and gay relationships are generally violent Part 2:

Homosexual households are also more prone to domestic violence. For example: “The incidence of domestic violence among gay men is nearly double that in the heterosexual population,” according to D. Island and P. Letellier in Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them - Gay Marriage is Not Only Wrong, It’s Socially Destructive, Concerned Women for America

"The bottom line is, a man involved in homosexual behavior is 500 times more likely to be the victim of violence, violent assault at the hands of his own homosexual ‘lover’ --a ‘love crime’ -- than he is to be a victim of a so-called ‘hate crime’ committed against him by someone who doesn’t like the fact that he’s involved in that kind of lifestyle,” Glenn says.

Glenn’s data are based on research found in the book Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence - 
Domestic Assaults, Not Hate Crimes, Pervading Homosexual Community, Agape Press (One News Now) 

Truth - Patrick Letellier said this about the distortion of his work:

Instead of making use of current literature or statistics, Glenn selects two passages from our book, from pages 12 and 50, and links them together (I quote him verbatim here, the mis-use of quotation marks is his):

"Island and Letellier also estimate that 'domestic violence may effect and poison as many as 50 percent of gay couples, while 'we believe [heterosexual domestic abuse] is closer to 20 percent." In fact, as we clearly state in our book, the 50% figure is an estimate provided to us by an anti-violence project, and in the paragraphs following our mention of that figure, Dr. Island and I refute it and come up with what we believe is a more reasonable - and significantly lower - estimate of about 21%.

Sometimes context really is everything. What Glenn also fails to mention is that the estimate of 20% that Dr. Island and I make (regarding heterosexual battering) was a challenge to other researchers who claimed that as many as 80% of heterosexual men batter their partners. Here's the whole quote: "We disagree. No body of data supports their contentions. We believe that far too many husbands in America are violent, but their proportion is closer to 20% than 80%."

Distortion - Homosexuals have a lot of sex partners and their relationships do not last Part 1.

Studies indicate that the average male homosexual has hundreds of sex partners in his lifetime, a lifestyle that is difficult for even "committed" homosexuals to break free of and which is not conducive to a healthy and wholesome atmosphere for the raising of children. A. P. Bell and M. S. Weinberg, in their classic study of male and female homosexuality, found that 43 percent of white male homosexuals had sex with five hundred or more partners, with 28 percent having 1,000 or more sex partners - Homosexuality, Placing Children at Risk, Family Research Council

Point of fact - FRC removed this study from its webpage. A representative of the organization told me that the information contained in the study was outdated. Recently, FRC reposted the study to its page without explanation.

Alan P. Bell and Martin S. Weinberg studied 574 white male homosexuals, 100 percent of whom had already had at least three sexual partners, 97 percent at least ten, 75 percent at least one hundred, and 28 percent at least one thousand. - House Dems Try to Hide Homosexual Agenda on “Bullying” Bill, American Family Association of Michigan

Truth - Bell and Weinberg’s study was compiled in the 1970s. They used the study to write the book Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity among Men and Women. In Homosexualities is this statement:

“. . . given the variety of circumstances which discourage homosexuals from participating in research studies, it is unlikely that any investigator will ever be in a position to say that this or that is true of a given percentage of all homosexuals.”

Distortion - Homosexuals have a lot of sex partners and their relationships do not last Part 2

“Well, what does a homosexual marriage look like? Well the longest term that we have to take a look at it is in the Netherlands. And one sociologist made a study of that and found out that the average marriage between two men lasts 1.5 years. Furthermore, they don’t even believe really in monogamous marriages. On average, the average married homosexual man has 8 other sexual partners per year. So those year and a half marriages involved also sex with 12 other men during that time.” - The late Rev. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries 

“The journal AIDS reported that in the Netherlands, where “gay marriage” has been legal since 2001, HIV and other diseases are soaring among homosexual men. The study notes that “partnered” homosexuals have “outside” lovers, and are contracting the AIDS virus at alarming rates.” - The Real Costs of Gay Marriage and Civil Unions, Concerned Women for America

Truth - The study referenced in these two examples was conducted by one Maria Xiridou of the Amsterdam Municipal Health Service. Her study did not look at gay marriage but was to "access the relative contribution of steady and casual partnerships to the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam and to determine the effect of increasing sexually risky behaviours among both types of partnerships in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy."

For this study, Dr. Xiridou received her information from the Amsterdam Cohort Study of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and AIDS Among Homosexual Men. To gain this information, researchers studied 1,800 gay men between the years of 1984- 2000. Same sex marriage was legalized in the Netherlands in 2001, thus making the information irrelevant to points about gay marriage. Information for the Amsterdam Cohort Study is found here.

And last but certainly not least . . .

Distortion - Gays have a short life span

“In a major Canadian centre, life expectancy at age twenty for gay and bisexual men is eight to twenty years less than for all men. If the same pattern of mortality were to continue, we estimate that nearly half of gay and bisexual men currently aged twenty years will not reach their sixty-fifth birthday. Under even the most liberal assumptions, gay and bisexual men in this urban centre are now experiencing a life expectancy similar to that experienced by all men in Canada in the year 1871.” - Getting it Straight, Family Research Council

One epidemiological study found that “gay” men lose 8-20 years off their lifespan. - Several reasons to oppose same sex marriage, Concerned Women for America

According to a study that appeared in the International Journal of Epidemiology, homosexual behavior risks cutting years off the lives of “gay” men. Examining the homosexual community in Vancouver, Canada, the study said: “In a major Canadian centre, life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men. . .” - Sexual suicide, The American Family Association

Truth - As I have said numerous times, in 2001, the researchers of this study complained about how it was being misused. They explained what they actually meant and how it is not feasible to use their work to claim that gay men have a "short life span."

Point of fact - In 2008, Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel addressed the researchers’ complaints by claiming that they were pressured to make this statement. However (surprise, surprise) Barber did not give any further detail as to who pressured them or when this alleged pressure supposedly happened.

The point here is not just to call attention to this misinformation but also spell out what it means. These inaccurate interpretations of the mentioned studies are not indicative of just one religious right group, they are indicative of a large number if not all religious right groups.

The problematic issue of lgbt rights is bad enough when one debates it on a religious and ethical level, but when science is added, the stakes are higher.

Religious right groups push the idea that lgbt rights are bad not only on a moral level but also that there is "scientific proof" that lgbts rights are bad on a medical level.

But they gain the proof through either intentional or unintentional misreadings of studies and constant repetition of those studies even when their errors are pointed out.

In short, the lgbt community has to do more than just label religious right groups as “haters,” “bigots,” and “homophobes.” This labeling provides transitory visibility and simple cosmetics to a problems that is deeper than anyone can imagine.

The religious right have skillfully crafted a body of inaccuracies about the lgbt community backed by misinterpreted studies. And this body is easily transported to almost every other so-called traditional value groups across state and country lines. It can also be used by legislators who already have anti-gay biases but are looking for "justification" for their prejudices.

Someone standing in front of Congress, state legislatures, school boards, or speaking on talk shows and saying that “Studies done by eminent researchers and physicians have found that homosexuality includes a level of promiscuity, relationship abuse, and a shorter life span and therefore gays should not be allowed to adopt children or have the right to marry, ” has more weight than just espousing a personal religious and moral opinion against homosexuality.

Now someone could easily say “so these studies have been used incorrectly. The theory that homosexuality is a dangerous lifestyle is still sound.”

But if the theory that “homosexuality is a dangerous lifestyle” is true, then why do these religious right groups have to distort data to prove it’s veracity?